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5 Ways to Become a More Credible Marketing Leader

Most marketing leaders struggle with the same problems.

I’ve struggled with it myself. It’s difficult to be a marketer. It’s a poisoned chalice.

On the one hand, you get blamed for not producing enough pipeline.

But on the other hand, when the pipeline grows, deals close and you hit the number. Guess what.

The CRO gets all the credit.

Psychologically, it’s tough for a CMO or an aspiring marketing leader.

But what I want to give you in this post is five tips on how you can optimise your role as the CMO.

Or if you’re an aspiring CMO, what you need to think about, in order to get at the level, and operational outputs, that the CEO expects and the board expects from you.

Here we go.

Tip number one

As the CMO, you need to improve your communication.

I’ve struggled with this in the past and I’ve learned the hard way that communicating what marketing does to the business is one of the most important things in order to be a successful marketer.

A strong marketing function is crucial for growth within a SaaS business. But often it is not clear where or what value is being delivered.

Nobody really understands SEO very well. Nobody really understands what you’re doing with your outbound campaigns. Nobody really understands much of what you’re doing at all.

CEOs just want to see outputs. Which is fair. Of course. But this makes it difficult for marketing leaders to really communicate everything of value. And refrain from communicating all the “stuff” that’s going on. Keep it simple and easy to understand.

What I recommend is dropping 90% of the marketing speak and honing your message on the 10% of the CEO or board wants to learn.

That’s the key to improving your communication.

You need to keep it simple and focused on outputs.

Forget about all this clever stuff that is cool for us marketers, to be brutally honest, your CEO doesn’t care about. They just want to see results.

If you do that, you start building better rapport and a better understanding of what you’re doing in the organisation.

Tip number two

It’s so important to improve and maximise your relationships across lateral departments.

Don’t only think about yourself.

Make sure you’re also building rapport with the chief product officer or the head of product.

Do the same with the head of sales and the head of HR.

Ensure you’re building relationships not just on a friendly level but also on a professional level where it’s clear how you add value to what the individual does.

A classic example is the relationship with your head of sales — you are each others’ partners in crime.

Far too often we think we have a great relationship with the head of sales when actually it’s not being maximised at all.

You may be great friends in a personal capacity, but on a professional level you’re not getting deep enough. You get on. You speak regularly. But are you getting much done that’s effective as a duo? The CEO wants to see alignment and results. Between all roles within the leadership team.

The way to build rapport across different teams and leadership functions is to obsess about what everyone else cares about. Focus on what’s important to deliver in their world.

Tip number three

Marketing leaders must encourage their team to do more than just marketing.

You need to coach all members of your team about communication, about what the CEO wants to see and about what the head of sales wants to see.

You should also encourage them to develop the same ethos around helping others.

Coach them so they don’t always talk to other people around the business using marketing language. That can confuse people. It’s so important to communicate as clearly as possible.

You are responsible for not confusing people but you should also encourage your team not to confuse people. To be honest, even I get confused. And I’ve worked in marketing for many years.

What hope do others in the business have to understand you?

Most issues around not knowing outputs of marketing lie with this point of confusion. It’s a hidden safety mechanism we think protects us. But it doesn’t.

It’s a mistake both you and your team could easily make, so ensure you coach them in the right way and keep things simple.

Stay focused on outputs, don’t obsess over the tactics and ensure every marketing person is always clear that they’re supporting where the business needs to go.

Tip number four

Don’t get too precious about your marketing tools.

This may seem like an odd one when the majority of how a marketer actually creates their output is through the tools they use.

But the point is, there’s no need to get really precious about the tools or your overall MarTech stack.

Often this stuff doesn’t really matter.

And actually, when you work in an advisory capacity (as I do now), you can see how you can often work with what you’ve got. Finding a new tool is just a form of procrastination. Instead spend the time creating better messaging, launching a campaign, etc.

Space is made to be creative and proactive when you’re not so obsessed with building the perfect tech stack.

Also, think about your current processes and systems. Not the tools.

What are you doing at the moment?

How can you make incremental gains in everything?

Are you over-complicating by adding more tech.

Take a step back, reflect, look at what you’ve got. Optimise for what you have.

Focus on the outputs that you need to generate and then move forwards and create momentum.

Have micro milestones and always be setting next actions to achieve things quickly. Ensure these are connected to the broader vision.

But make sure you don’t get bogged down in being precious about systems or what you’re using, or worry too much that you can’t launch a specific campaign because you don’t have the mar tech in place.

It’s better to get going with what you’ve got, prove value, show the CEO you’re making progress and just try and keep it simple.

Don’t obsess around all these tools because once again, the CEO doesn’t really care.

Tip number five

When you’re presenting to the board or CEOs, don’t only talk about the pipeline.

Try and talk about what’s going on in the market. Discuss the trends and the problems in the market.

Address thoughtful questions — what’s the vision of the product? How does its solution fit in the market? How will you build a monopoly in that market?

I often refer back to the Peter Thiel book Zero to One in this context and think “how do we build a monopoly in this market through the components Peter Thiel discussed around proprietary technology network effects, economies of scale and brand building”?

Try to be more sophisticated in your approach. Try to be more holistic and look at all the facets across the business as the marketing leader.

Look at all the levers that you can support. Don’t just go and present the pipeline and don’t get too obsessed with your silo.

The less obsessed you are with your silo, the better perception you’ll create to senior members in the organisation because you’ll look as though you’re caring more about what’s right for the organisation and what needs to be done across the board in alignment, rather than focusing only on marketing’s success.

Remember that the reason for SaaS growth and scaling is when all the components work together in one cohesive machine.

A new outlook for marketing

Now that the sales funnel has changed, there’s an incredible opportunity for marketing leaders to be on the front foot. In the past marketing has been seen as a kind of support mechanism for sales. A cost centre.

But now it’s clear that marketing is a growth mechanism for SaaS.

It’s a different outlook and you as the marketing leader can tap into that and prove to the CEO and board that you fit into this new market model where marketing is the key lever for building a machine of sustainable growth to 5 million, 10 million, 15 million, 20 million plus ARR.

If you give these tips practical application, you’ll see an incredible change in perception in the business.

Above all, you’ll see yourself being perceived in a better light in helping the business grow further.

Remember, be more than marketing.

Whenever you're ready, there are three ways I can help you:

(1) DUE DILIGENCE FOR INVESTORS & CEOs: A bespoke framework and capability model 'DEMAND KARMA' that delivers DD services to investors, VC firms and CEOs.

(2) ADVISORY: Retained advisory at funded scale-ups. A simple monthly fee. Helping CEOs build a scalable marketing machine. (Booked out until December)

(3) STRATEGY COACHING: Book time on my calendar to work through a standalone project or to get answers to your most pressing marketing strategy and execution questions.

If you're interested, let's jump on a call to see if you're a good fit.

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